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Q&A WITH MICHAEL BOLTON : His Career Is No Laughing Matter

October 27, 1992|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Michael Bolton swears he's a jocular person. Really. But in photos and public appearances, he rarely smiles or kids around . And in press conferences and interviews, he invariably winds up a tad on the defensive side, answering the slings and arrows of music critics who've taken his extremely dramatic ballad style to task.

The singer says we'll see some different sides of him, though--including, presumably, the light-hearted one--in the TV special "This Is Michael Bolton," airing Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC. This hourlong profile , which incorporates both extensive concert footage and behind-the-scenes glimpses, is from the same producers (Bud Schaetzle and Louis Levin) who put together "This Is Garth Brooks," a surprise ratings smash that NBC is banking Bolton has the mass appeal to repeat. Given that his last album sold 5 million copies in the U.S., it may be a safe bet.

Besides the TV show, Bolton, 39, is promoting his new album, "Timeless--The Classics," a collection of well-worn oldies that veers between the string-laden ("Yesterday") and the horn-driven ("Hold On, I'm Comin' "). During a quick visit to L.A. between mixing sessions for the TV special at his Connecticut home studio, Bolton spoke about his success, his image and his critics.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 28, 1992 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 3 Column 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Album sales--A story on singer Michael Bolton in Tuesday's Calendar gave an incorrect figure for domestic sales of his "Time, Love and Tenderness" recording. The album has sold 10 million copies worldwide, including the U.S., not just in the U.S.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 30, 1992 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 8 Column 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Co-producer--Martin Fischer was the co-producer of Wednesday's "This Is Michael Bolton" television special. An incorrect name was given in an article in Tuesday's Calendar.

Question: Music hasn't done that well ratings-wise on TV in recent years. But the success of the Garth Brooks special really turned around everyone's expectations.

Answer: I'm sure it turned a few heads, because the numbers, as they say, were big on the Garth show. But on the other hand Garth's numbers are big anyway. He's a phenomenon. He's got this extremely active audience that just comes out. . . . According to Bud (Schaetzle), it was (Schaetzle's) idea that I was one of the only people that--at this time, anyway--could pull that kind of audience as well. But I don't know, I'm not taking it for granted, I'll tell you that much.

You really cover a lot of ground with a special. The timing is great, of course, because the "Classics" album is out at the same time, and it's a great way to announce the new project. But for me, it's really about a career. It's a way to introduce yourself to a lot of people who, oddly enough, really don't have any idea of who you are.

No matter how many albums you sell, there are people everywhere who either never heard of you or just heard of you and they don't know whether you're a baseball player or a singer. And it's a way to maybe answer some of the questions that a lot of my fan mail reflects interest in.

Q: First and foremost, fans probably think of you as a romantic. And to a lesser extent, you have a very serious, sober public persona--not exactly a happy-go-lucky character like Garth. Are those both accurate perceptions, that you're a romantic and a very serious person?

A: Yeah, but I have another side that is a character, too. I think you're probably right in that depiction, that that's probably how people perceive me. And it's probably because I took my career so seriously--because it took so long and so much work, and there was so much disappointment and concern about it ever happening, that I felt the only way to make it was to be so focused and serious in anything that concerned my career.

And ironically, ever since I was a kid, I really took almost nothing seriously. I made a joke out of everything. I got kicked out of Sunday school. I couldn't sit in a class with other people without joking or making other kids laugh and get in trouble with me. Almost everything is funny to me. And yet when it comes to my career and my kids, that's when I get serious. And that's the way a lot of people have seen me.

A lot of my fans say, "Why doesn't he smile more? Can you send me some pictures with him smiling?" (He chuckles, turning to photographer.) See, he could have had three of 'em just now. But there aren't too many. Ironically, people close to me know me as a joker. But they also know that, when it comes to my career, I'm dead serious.

Q: Did you happen to see the parody of you on "In Living Color," where you sing "When a Man Loves a Woman" so hard your head finally explodes?

A: I thought it was hilarious. I forget the guy's name, but I had seen him before (spoofing) me in one of his cable specials, and I was in stitches. He said, "No, I like this guy, but I'm just worried about him." Then he imitated me singing and you see his veins sticking out, and he was hilarious.

When I saw the ("Living Color") video, I thought it was my video. My kids taped it because they thought it was hilarious. I put it in and said, "God, that's my suit, the girls are moving like my girls." The only thing that bugged me about it was there was one line in the whole song--I won't even tell you what it was--that bothered me. And if I speak to him someday, I'm gonna speak to him about it, and tell him he's hilarious. . . .

Q: The line about ripping off old black artists?

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